Bobby Goodman

Robert O. Goodman (born 30 November 1956) is a former A-6 Intruder bombardier–navigator and class of 1978 graduate of the United States Naval Academy. He was shot down over Lebanon on 4 December 1983. Captured upon ejection from his stricken plane, he was held captive for 30 days. His release on 3 January 1984 was facilitated by Reverend Jesse Jackson.[citation needed]

Robert O. Goodman
Born (1956-11-30) 30 November 1956 (age 63)[1]
AllegianceUnited States of America
Service/branchUnited States Navy
Years of service1978–1995
Battles/warsLebanese Civil War
Gulf War
AwardsPrisoner of War Medal


In October 1983, USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67) was diverted to Beirut, Lebanon from her planned Indian Ocean deployment, after the Beirut barracks bombing killed 241 US Military personnel of the Multinational Force in Lebanon. The ship spent the rest of that year and early 1984 patrolling the region. On 4 December, in response to two US F-14 aircraft having been fired upon the previous day, ten A-6 Intruders of VA-85 Black Falcons[2] along with A-6 and A-7 Corsair aircraft from USS Independence (CV-62) took part in a bombing raid over Beirut.[citation needed]


While on a bombing mission, the two-man crew from VA-85 was hit by an infrared homing missile (SA-7 or SA-9) into the engine nozzle upon dropping its bomb load, while still in a dive through 1,800 feet (554 m) AGL. The fuselage and a wing were immediately engulfed in flames, and then the right engine erupted.[citation needed]

The pilot, Lieutenant Mark Lange, tried to control the aircraft in order to safely eject the crew. After a rapid, low-level descent, the Intruder was seen to pull up and likely stalled, resulting in a crash on a hill at 1,000 ft MSL, near a village surrounded by Syrian anti-aircraft artillery positions. Lange ejected both himself and Goodman in the final moment, but his parachute failed to properly deploy before he hit the ground. Lange's left leg was severely injured and he died shortly after capture by Syrian troops and Lebanese civilians. Goodman, rendered unconscious, broke three ribs, and injured a shoulder and a knee during the landing, but was otherwise stable. He was captured and awakened by the Syrians and taken to Damascus.[citation needed]


Goodman was held for more than a month, during which the U.S. government made numerous attempts to free him. He had a few visitors, including Ambassador Robert Paganelli who brought him Christmas dinner.[citation needed]


In December 1983, Jesse Jackson traveled to Syria with a delegation that included; Reverend Wyatt T. Walker, Louis Farrakhan, Jack Mendelson, Dr. Thelma C.D. Adair, Reverend M. William Howard Jr., Florence Tate (Press Secretary), Julia Jones (Photographer), Thomas Porter, Jesse Jackson Jr., Jonathan Jackson, and others. The mission's peaceful purpose was accomplished, as they secured the release of Goodman.[3][4]

White House ReceptionEdit

On 4 January 1984, U.S. President Ronald Reagan welcomed Lt. Goodman at the White House, hours after he and Rev. Jackson arrived back in the U.S.[citation needed]

Reagan said Lt. Goodman "exemplified qualities of leadership and loyalty" and said Jackson's "mission of mercy" had "earned our gratitude and our admiration." In turn, Jackson praised Reagan for sending a letter to Syrian President Assad calling for cooperation in bringing peace to Lebanon.[5]


Following captivity, release, and return to the United States, Lt. Goodman remained in active service.[citation needed]

As a lieutenant commander, Bobby Goodman was featured in an episode of "Wings over the Gulf" (In Harm's Way, 1992) in which he discussed his experiences in the Gulf War of 1991 with Iraq, flying the A-6 Intruder.[citation needed]

Goodman retired with the rank of commander in 1995.[citation needed]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Gubert, Betty Kaplan; Sawyer, Miriam; Fannin, Caroline M. (2002). "Robert O. Goodman Jr.". In Distinguished African Americans in Aviation and Space Science, p 136.
  2. ^ "4th December 1983". The Year 1983. Ejection History. 23 June 2011. Archived from the original on 21 September 2013. Retrieved 11 September 2013. A-6E TRAM BuNo 152915 coded AC, side number 556 VA-85 "Black Falcons" from USS Kennedy. Near Kfar Salwan, 15 M E of Beirut, Lebanon, shot down by Syrian SAM-7 during bombing Lt. Mark "Doppler" Lange ejected Martin-Baker BN Robert O. "Bobby" Goodman ejected Martin-Baker
  3. ^ Walters, Ronald (2007). Freedom Is Not Enough: Black Voters, Black Candidates, and American Presidential Politics (American Political Challenges). Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, p. 34. Excerpt at Google Books.
  4. ^ Martin, Roland (10 April 2008). "New Details Emerge on Polygamy Raid; McCain Makeover?". Election Central. CNN. Retrieved 9 December 2008. the fact that it was Reverend Wright who accompanied Reverend Jackson to get a Navy pilot, Goodman, out of Syria, who also was on that trip with Louis Farrakhan. Reagan praised that mercy mission for getting the pilot back.
  5. ^ Stanley, Alessandra. "An Officer and a Gentleman Comes Home". Time Magazine, 16 Jan 1984. Available online.


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